There’s nothing worse than wearing your crisp white shirt out to dinner and, after being careful all night, a little pasta sauce escapes your fork, right down your front. It happens to all of us. But what happens when you put it in the wash, only to find out the stain is still there?
Or maybe you did keep your shirt free of sauce stains but it came out of the wash looking grubbier than it went in.
There are many different reasons that clothes can come out of the washer with stains on, whether they were there in the first place or not. Read on to find out what the culprit might be and how to fix it.
1. The Stains Are Too Tough to Come Out in a Normal Wash
Some stains are notoriously difficult to remove and unfortunately, normal detergent won’t get rid of them. These include:
- Grease and oil
- Red wine
If you have any of these stains on your clothing, don’t put them straight in the wash. In fact, doing so can cause the stain to penetrate further and will be even more difficult to remove later.
Instead, invest in a specific stain-removing product. These can come in the form of a spray, a powder, or a bar, and you can often find products that are formulated specifically for the above stains.
You’ll need to treat the garment prior to washing it by following the stain remover’s instructions.
2. You May Be Using Detergent Incorrectly
Is powder detergent effective in removing stains?
Powder detergent is effective in removing stains. However, whilst it doesn’t stain your clothes, in some cases, it can leave a residue on them when they come out of the wash.
Try to avoid powder detergents if you tend to wash at a lower temperature. Higher temperatures are needed to effectively dissolve the powder.
A powder can also fail to dissolve if you overload your washer, be sure to respect the recommended limits for your model.
Tip: if you are using powdered detergent on a cooler cycle, dissolve the powder in warm water before adding it.
Are some detergents better at removing stains than others?
Some detergents are specifically formulated for removing stains, so using these products is a good idea if you often have stained garments going through the wash.
As mentioned before, some detergents are even formulated for common stains such as grass, so they are worth trying out.
There are also detergents made specifically for white clothing, these products contain ingredients to help keep your clothes bright. They can be a good investment as they stop white clothes from succumbing to grubby marks.
Can you use too much detergent?
Yes! The more is not the merrier in the case of laundry detergent. It can be tempting to add a lot of detergents as this means there’s more to go around.
However, using too much can lead to build-up either on your clothes or in your machine. Always be sure to read the instruction label to ensure you’re using the correct amount.
3. Are You Overloading the Washing Machine?
Some stains come out quite easily in a routine wash and don’t need to be pre-treated. And yet, there is an often-overlooked reason that a normal cycle doesn’t get rid of the stain, and that is overloading the washing machine.
When there are too many items of clothes stuffed into the drum, they can’t move around. When this happens, detergent may not be able to reach the stain, or even if it does, the dirt simply can’t escape.
As previously mentioned, don’t exceed the maximum weight that your model can handle. The weight should be indicated on the washer itself. A good rule of thumb is to fill the drum until it is about three-quarters full.
4. Your Clothes Are Getting Stained During Wash
Fabric softener stains
It may seem counterproductive that this could happen, but your fabric softener could actually be staining your clothes.
Fabric softener isn’t formulated to remove stains or even clean garments, so in certain circumstances, it can end up building up and leaving an oily residue on your clothes.
Here are some tips for using fabric softener while avoiding stains:
- Wash with hot water: similar to powdered detergent, fabric softeners also need warmer water to fully dissolve as they are often oil-based.
- Don’t use too much product: the lid will act as a measuring cup, so be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging to use the correct amount.
- Keep the drawer clean; fabric softener can build up in the detergent drawer. These deposits can then be carried into your wash and as they are too hard to break down, they build up on your clothes.
Your machine is to blame
To eliminate all other causes, put an old t-shirt or towel in the wash that you don’t mind getting stains on, and wash it without any product. If it comes out with new stains on it, the machine itself is most likely to blame. A machine can stain your clothes for several reasons.
Detergent and fabric softener (again)
We’ve already covered what happens when you use too much of these products, but these products can build up in your machine and continue to leave residue even when you’re using the correct amount.
These two products can build up in the dispenser drawer, the door seal, and the drum itself.
If you can see product build-up, you can just wipe it away using some hot, soapy water and a cloth.
However, if you can’t see any residue, but suspect it might be the cause, you can remove it by running your washer on its hottest cycle with a cup of white vinegar. Add the vinegar to the detergent drawer, distributing it between all compartments.
You can also use bleach instead of vinegar, however, do not mix them together as they react and emit toxic fumes.
The machine has developed a fault
Some machines, unfortunately, develop issues over their lifetime and a number of causes can be to blame.
If your clothes are still coming out stained after running an empty cycle with vinegar or bleach, you can check the manufacturer’s website to see if they list any known issues with your model and if not, it may be time to call in a professional.
In The Wash is your guide to the best laundry and cleaning products, tips and tricks. Our mission is to solve the UK’s cleaning and laundry dilemmas!